A second life

My essay about meeting my family for the first time, originally published in Guernica, is about to start a second life, having been awarded first prize in a New Millennium contest. New Millenium cover

“Hidden in a Suitcase” describes my deep and instantaneous connection to the family I was separated from by adoption. And through the story of my relationship with one nephew in particular, it explores how addiction has cut so deeply into the life of our family.

When I met my people, I started on a second life, a real life full of love and sorrow. My nephew, whose name is changed in this version of the essay at the request of the publisher, will be starting a second life this year when he’s paroled from his current prison bit.

At least 65% of American prisoners meet the medical definition of addiction. The American criminal justice system is punishing our brothers and sisters, our parents and our children, for suffering from a medical condition.

Poetry and the Paris Accord

cropped-cropped-butterfly311Like many baby boomers, I recall a time when an unusually warm spring day was something to relish, not cause for anxiety about climate change.

My spouse, scientist Stephen Mulkey, is fond of saying, “Weather and climate are not the same thing,” but it’s natural for folks to experience weather as a harbinger of good or bad fortune, or of the weather to come.

The rainbow, the stormclouds, the hurricane, the cloudless sky, the tornado — all these have an emotional resonance for us. Because climate change is so centered on prediction, we can’t help but tie weather and climate together.

The day the American government vowed to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change published a new issue (28.2), which includes my poem, Gift Horse. I admit to being influenced by that science dude!

How Poetry Workshops Work

Last night, a poem on chronic pain (and other things) was published in Heron Tree, a journal I very much admire for its aesthetic and its restraint.

heron treeWithout the feedback I receive as a member of a community poetry group, I’m sure my poems would not be ready for public consumption. Often, what seems very clear to me is not at all obvious, even to experienced poets.

When I moved from Massachusetts to Florida in 2004, I missed the criticism and camaraderie of the incredible Powow River Poets Workshops that I’d attended for ten years. I whined about it to the group founder, Rhina P. Espaillat. She told me to go start a new poetry workshop in Florida. So I put up a notice in a local bookstore and a new workshop was born, almost 12 years ago now.

My deepest thanks to the brilliant women in this “new” poetry workshop who are such insightful critics. Samara Crutchfield, Aliesa Zoecklein, Faith Clark, Corky Culver .

Bird Omens

I’m a long-time believer in bird omens. When I was a commuter, I’d make a little obeisance to the red-tailed hawks that perched alongside the highway into Boston, asking for general car luck and a parking spot. More than once, a fatal encounter with a bird foreshadowed the death of someone I loved.


Last month, while I was walking around the North Florida campus where I work, a white heron flew right over my head, so close I could almost have touched it. It landed on the sidewalk about 15 feet in front of me. We walked together single file for about 20 yards before the heron veered off into a shrubbery area.

That evening I was notified that a poem I’d submitted to a magazine was accepted. The magazine was  . . . HERON TREE. Coincidence? I think not!

Listen to the free poetry

EAT Sampler

What do you call someone who’s a writer, artist, musician, teacher, publisher, and anarchist? One word won’t do, but one name will: Mark Ari of Jacksonville, Florida and the world.

Ari’s been publishing audio chapbooks as well as print works under EAT Poem imprint since the turn of the century, and he’s just released a sampler of poems from some of the audio chapbooks.

Ari says:

To get the album for free, just put “0” in as the price when you download. You have to download the whole album to get it for free because I’m too lazy to make the adjustments for individual tracks.

But enjoy these terrific poets. I am forever in their debt for their graciousness in sharing their work with me so I can share it with others.


Poets in this release include me,  Driscoll Frances, Tim Gilmore, Teri Youmans Grimm, Richard Peabody, Liz Clarke Robbins, Robert Walker, Mary Kelley Baron, Tiffany Steward Melanson, Fred Dale, Andy Rojas.

Gun Shy


This poem grew out of some thoughts about how people (me included) who’ve survived systemic violence are dealing (or not) with the current administration’s exaltation of racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynist individuals and organizations. It was originally published in Rise Up Review. Go show them some love — they publish a new poem every day on their site, a place for “the poetry of opposition.”